Creepy Crockford Blvd.

2 Nov

A few days after moving into our Scarborough digs a year ago, a neighbour dropped by to welcome us to the neighbourhood, share tomatoes from her garden, and offer a few pointers for us newly-minted locals.  One of the things she mentioned by way of guide to the area was a short-cut to the closest grocery store, a Food Basics.  I thought it was a great tip.

In 12 months I have never had occasion to go to the store.  It is generally a lot more convenient for my car-less self to hitch a ride with family or friends as they run their errands, or to pick up groceries along the subway line on my way home.   (Woodbine Station is excellent as there is a Valu-Mart steps from the metro so I can hop on, hop off and get my shopping done).

On a recent Sunday afternoon, however, I decided to go get groceries and it occurred to me to try out this famous short cut to Food Basics.

It was extremely foggy around 6p.m. when I set off.   As I headed north to Lawrence Avenue via Crockford Boulevard—an industrial street with barely any sidewalks, barely any cars, no people and two guard dogs—I was quite a bit creeped out.  It also felt like I was walking forever (‘short cut’ certainly seemed a misnomer).  The fog didn’t help with either of these perceptions.

In order to quell my slightly nervous state, perhaps, I started daydreaming about what Crockford could look like in a somewhat alternate universe.  With a new direction, new zoning bylaws, and a lot of investment — if it were to become a pedestrian-friendly precinct.

I envisioned how different the place would be if some of the vacant or underutilized buildings became loft-style apartments; if the warehouses were revamped and converted to offices, funky restaurants and party venues; if a renewed Crockford became Toronto’s latest Distillery District or Liberty Village northeast.

It was a pretty big stretch but a fun place for the mind to wander.  Who knows what the future holds, in any case?


Picturesque Perennials

9 Jun

I find since moving to our home, I’m much more aware of the seasons and how they change.  I don’t know if it’s the responsibility for outdoor maintenance, or just the fact of passing more surburban-esque homes with their expansive tree-lined lots on my way to the bus stop.

Either way, I felt more keenly aware of autumn last year, seeing how the leaves changed their colours, then having to sweep and rake great heaps of them into large paper bags.  It was a bit of a short winter but we were certainly aware of the shovelling.  Then springtime started, early this year, and one of the first signs was our magnolia tree with its gorgeous pink blossoms (which, I found out, fall off almost as soon as they emerge– I had no idea they were so short-lived!)

The magnolia ushered in all the other blossomings which have happened one by one: first the tulips, which are gone now too, and then several other perennials that are poking around our front and backyard.  It’s a far cry from how Spring sprung a couple of years back

It’s our first spring at the house, and we’ve not planted any annuals, so I can’t take any credit for the lovely things that are blooming all around the garden.  But I can take lots of pictures!

Lunch and a Stroll

30 May

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Bye Bye Bloor West, Hello Rosedale

22 Apr

Last month, our company’s offices moved from Bloor West Village (where we’d been located since I started working there three years ago) to the strip of Yonge St. between Rosedale and Summerhill subway stations.

The change has been significant.  Living as I do in the east end of town, the new location is welcome firstly because it cuts down on my commute time by almost an hour a day.  And the new neighbourhood, while a little pricier than Bloor West, is cheery and full of the energy that comes with loads of people walking up and down Yonge St. all day long.  (It doesn’t hurt that spring has sprung, filling patios and putting a little extra jazz in everyone’s step).

Though I wasn’t very familiar with Bloor West prior to starting at the firm a few years back, I will be missing some of the local businesses that were in and around the old digs.  Here are some of the neighbourhood shops I came to be thankful for:

Alfredo’s – Local grocery store with a deli and everything. Very handy for last minute lunch purchases of all kinds.

Java Joe’s – Slightly quirky folk but the panini I used to think was expensive and only got as a treat every so often is looking mighty reasonable relative to a panini in midtown!

The Pastry Chef – Sadly this lovely little bakery has recently closed due to the owners retiring (maybe not so sad for them!)  These guys supplied all our office birthday cakes and satisfied all sorts of early morning and late afternoon cravings for sweets. Local chatter says the place will now be occupied by a dentist’s office, which makes me wonder: why wouldn’t a new bakery come along to buy the old business with its ready-made clientele that’s been built up over the years…?  I asked myself the same question when Peter’s Place closed down.  This seemingly very successful greasy spoon with the most wonderful characters closed last year when the owners decided to retire, but nothing has yet sprung up in its place.  Again, someone could have probably set up a great business coming in where this one had closed down (because its closure was certainly not due to lack of interest in burgers, greek food and all-day breakfast from us local folk).

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Bridal Browsin’ (and Buyin’)

19 Apr

Our wedding is taking place this fall, so since January I have been in and out of bridal stores—scoping out dresses for myself and my bridesmaids, as well as accompanying my future sister-in-law on her dress shopping (we are getting married only a few months apart!).

I opted to limit my own gown search to three stores to avoid feeling overwhelmed with choice.

My first stop was Felichia Bridal, on Yonge north of Eglinton.  I was initially drawn to the store because they’d advertised a Watters trunk show.  (Trunk shows, they explained, are an opportunity to try on the full collection of a given designer, whereas on a regular day the store would carry samples of some but not all of that designer’s styles).  I thought it would be a bright idea to drop by the boutique before the trunk show for a first trial and (potentially) return for the show feeling sure of the purchase.  Of course that’s not how it went at all, as the Watters dresses turned out to be far above my price range.  But it was still a successful trip as I found one dress I really liked.

Despite finding one gem, I wanted to have a good sense of what was out there in terms of selection.  I dropped by a second store which had been recommended by one of my co-workers.  Jealous Bridesmaids Bridal Boutique is located in Toronto’s Bloor West Village (and conveniently, was a hop, skip and a jump from my work, before the office moved last month.)  Jealous Bridesmaids carries a great selection of gowns and bridesmaids dresses from designers such as Maggie Sottero, Sottero & Midgely, and Casablanca.  More importantly, they have the loveliest staff.  This is a small, intimate place where you feel truly at home.  Prices are quite reasonable as well.  The average dress price, I was told, is in the $1,500 range, and bridesmaids dresses are around $200.  Tried on several lovely styles here.

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Feel good TTC stories (an antidote to the recent spree of bad press)

24 Feb

The TTC hasn’t had it easy – public relations wise – over the last few weeks.  Even before the the sleeping TTC collector and the break-taking bus driver, they had to contend with the realization there were 31,000 complaints in 2009, a 15% increase over 2008.  In response to this spike in general dissatisfaction, the TTC has recruited a customer service panel with private sector advisors in other sectors such as the hotel industry to give them tips on how to improve.  This panel is still underway so it remains to be seen exactly how its recommendations will be rolled out.

Many of us are familiar with the frustration involved in using public transit everyday, so few of us are surprised to hear about the high number of complaints.  But while most of these are legitimate, we should remember that where there are complaints about service on the TTC, there are compliments.  And those compliments are voiced much less often.

So this blog post is about the memorable exceptions.  Everyone has at least one or two feel good stories about riding the TTC.  Here are a few of mine.

Streetcar Entertainment

This was years ago.  I lived by Bathurst & Lakeshore and took the 511 Bathurst Streetcar on a daily basis.  Long before the automated stop announcements were in place, there was one driver who had this route who would call out the names of each stop, as I believe they were required to do.   But he had a little twist: he would say the names of the stops– BACKWARDS.  That’s right SDRAWKCAB.

So we would pass Tecumseth – but it would be Htesmucet.  I think it was this same driver who would announce his own “guide to the city” as we went along.  “Toronto Western Hospital is next, Toronto Western Hospital.  Let’s hope you don’t have to end up there.”

The Irresistible Pout

While still living lakeside, I was once attempting to catch a southbound streetcar at the corner of College and Spadina.  Here the streetcar stop is located on the south side of the intersection. I was waiting at the south east corner of the street and saw the streetcar as it rushed past me.  I pouted in the streetcar driver’s general direction, making a little puppy dog face.  I was going to miss my ride because the traffic light looked as though it would not change in time for me to cross safely and run to the stop.  Surprisingly, the driver happened to catch my sad little face as he passed the intersection and waited for me a whole minute until I could safely cross and run to meet it.  When I got on, I thanked him.  He replied: “But of course.  Who could resist such a pout?”

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East-end perk: cheap flicks!

11 Dec

I am a big fan of our neighbourhood movie theatre, the Cineplex Eglinton Town Centre.  For one, we randomly run into friends there (always nice), and secondly—as I found out earlier this week when two of us went to see Fantastic Mr. Fox for a grand total of $10.52—’cheap Tuesdays’ still exist in Toronto (or Scarborough, anyway!).  Even on a regular night tickets cost a reasonable $10.50 each.  This is at a very modern theatre with big screens.

Scarborough legend has it that several years back management at the theatre tried to introduce the higher pricing that is the norm pretty well everywhere else in Toronto, and it simply did not fly.  They lost a lot of business, and ended up keeping with (what was then) status quo.  Maybe they increased the price of popcorn to make up for it??  Who knows how long it’ll last but in the meantime…bonus!

The theatres I know of in Toronto stopped offering half-price Tuesdays years ago, but I looked into it and turns out there is actually something cheaper than Eglinton Town Centre!  Here’s a quick guide of where to go for cheaper movies in Toronto, if you’re willing to make a trek…

Note: Shortly after completing this entry, I remembered Rainbow Cinemas down at Market Square on Front Street.  This is a smaller theatre with ’90s-era tiny screens but it does show many first-run films.  Prices here appear to take the cake as the cheapest in the city—tickets are $4 for Tuesdays, $6 for matinees, and $8.50 on regular evenings—but there is a compromise in terms of the quality of the space.